Release, branch, and environment triggers

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You can configure when releases should be created, and when those releases should be deployed to environments. The former is configured through release triggers, and the latter through environment triggers - both in a release definition.

Release (continuous deployment) triggers

If you specify certain types of artifacts in a release definition, you can enable continuous deployment. This instructs Release Management to create new releases automatically when it detects new artifacts are available. At present this option is available only for Team Foundation Build artifacts and Git-based sources such as Team Foundation Git, GitHub, and other Git repositories.

Selecting a trigger for a release

If you have linked multiple Team Foundation Build artifacts to a release definition, you can configure continuous deployment for each of them. In other words, you can choose to have a release created automatically when a new build of any of those artifacts is produced.

You add build branch filters if you want to create the release only when the build is produced by compiling code from certain branches (only applicable when the code is in a TFVC, Git, or GitHub repository) or when the build has certain tags. These can be both include and exclude filters. For example, use features/\* to include all builds under the features branch. You can also include custom variables in a filter value.

Alternatively, you can specify a filter to use the default branch specified in the build definition. This is useful when, for example, the default build branch changes in every development sprint. It means you don't need to update the trigger filter across all release definitions for every change - instead you just change the default branch in the build definition.

Note that, even though a release is automatically created, it might not be deployed automatically to any environments. The environment triggers govern when and if a release should be deployed to an environment.

Environment triggers

You can choose to have the deployment to each environment triggered automatically when a release is created by a continuous deployment trigger, based on:

  • A predefined schedule. When you select this option, you can select the days of the week and the time of day that Release Management will automatically create a new release. You can configure multiple schedules as required. Note that, with scheduled triggers, a new release is created even if a newer version of artifact is not available since the last release.

    The scheduled trigger conditions settings

  • Filters based on the artifacts. You can add one or more filters for each artifact linked to the release definition, and specify if you want to include or exclude particular branches of the code. Deployment will be triggered to this environment only if all the artifact conditions are successfully met.

    The artifact filter trigger conditions settings

  • The result of deploying to a previous environment in the pipeline. Use this setting if you want the release to be first deployed and validated in another environment(s) before it is deployed to this environment. Triggers are configured for each environment, but the combination of these allows you to orchestrate the overall deployment - such as the sequence in which automated deployments occur across all the environments in a release definition. For example, you can set up a linear pipeline where a release is deployed first to the Test and QA environments. Then, if these two deployments succeed, it will be deployed to a Staging environment. In addition, you can configure the trigger to fire for partially succeeded (but not failed) deployments.

    The environment trigger conditions settings

  • Manually by a user. Releases are not automatically deployed to the environment. To deploy a release to this environment, you must manually start a release and deployment from the release definition or from a build summary.

You can combine the automated settings to have releases created automatically either when a new build is available or according to a schedule.

TFS 2015: The following features are not available in TFS 2015 - continuous deployment triggers for multiple artifact sources, multiple scheduled triggers, combining scheduled and continuous deployment triggers in the same definition, continuous deployment based on the branch or tag of a build.

Parallel forked and joined deployments

The Triggering environment list lets you select more than one environment. This allows you to configure parallel (forked and joined) deployment pipelines where the deployment to an environment occurs only when deployment to all the selected environments succeeds.

For example, the following schematic shows a pipeline where deployment occurs in parallel to the QA and Pre-prod environments after deployment to the Dev environment succeeds. However, deployment to the Production environment occurs only after successful deployment to both the QA and Pre-prod environments.

Configuring a parallel (forked and joined) deployment pipeline

In combination with the ability to define pre- and post-deployment approvals, this capability enables the configuration of complex and fully managed deployment pipelines to suit almost any release scenario.

Note that you can always deploy a release directly to any of the environments in your release definition by selecting the Deploy action when you create a new release. In this case, the environment triggers you configure, such as a trigger on successful deployment to another environment, do not apply. The deployment occurs irrespective of these settings. This gives you the ability to override the release process. Performing such direct deployments requires the Manage deployments permission, which should only be given to selected and approved users.

TFS 2015: Parallel fork and joined deployments are not available in TFS 2015

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